"In the beginner's mind
there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." – Shunryu Suzuki
In July, I wrote about a fiction conference I attended, and how the
experience profoundly changed my relationship with writing. For those two
intensive days, I not only learned about the intricacies of character, story,
and world creation. I was reminded of
the ideal conditions for learning:
A sense of play.
something magical happens when you know that you don't know something. Not burdened by opinions, pride or beliefs, I
was fully present in the workshop. And I was able to listen– and hear– in
a way that I wouldn't have been in a voice or nonfiction writing class (two of
the fields I work in).
I’ve recently had similar 'a-ha' moments thanks to the cello, which I began
playing three months ago. Coming home
from a trip one day, there she stood next to my smiling husband, a red bow perched
on her neck.
say the cello is the instrument most like the human voice, which perhaps
explains why as a singer I have always been so drawn to it. The timbre is so rich, the resonance and sweet
melancholy fill and emanate from its wooden body the way they do from my
own. And I will never forget the first
time I played her; tears streamed down my face as the joy and wonder of making
music in this new way became possible.
wonder… the joy… Why is it often such a challenge to bring this experience
of learning to bear in areas about which we are already knowledgeable?
Back in July, I speculated that the main problem is living in a culture which
deems the acquisition of information to be of greater importance than the
process by which we acquire it. Both the
language and experience of mastery, achievement and expertise suggest the
sought-after arrival at an end point, rather than an ongoing process of
this view doesn’t tend to breed wonder, joy, and curiosity but rather, competition, closed-mindedness,
and even arrogance. To say nothing of
the stress, anxiety and lack of productivity that come from trying to do things
perfectly, lest we fall from our supposed pinnacle of distinction.
as a sponge can only take on water after being wrung out, so too must we be
able– regardless of our experience or education– to continually renounce our
own fullness, lest we become bloated and stale.
cello has been a powerful reminder of this lesson, both in my musical life and
beyond: it is surrender– of perfection,
of expectation, of resistance– that allows learning at every level and in every
area to become joyful and as a result, effective.
Originally published in Psychology Today
Labels: inspiring, learning, singing